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Wednesday 08 October 2008

Family First: Not beyond the law...

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 24th August 2008

According to the Sunday Star Times, the Christian Right's Family First pressure group has found itself unable to distribute an implicitly partisan 'voters guide' under the Electoral Finance Act. But doth the fundamentalists protest too much?


Family First has been 'forced' to abandon a massive 'voters guide' pamphlet drop to New Zealand households, which would have identified which political parties and Members of Parliament were social liberals or social conservatives over issues such as civil unions, decriminalisation of sex work and Section 59 Repeal. The Electoral Finance Act limits non-political (sic) organisations soliciting votes for or against specific parties unless the non-partisan interests register as 'third parties', let it be noted.

Family First took its propaganda pamphlets along to the Electoral Commission, and asked them for legal scrutiny over them, only to be told that the Commission did not pre-approve electoral campaign material, and recommended that they receive independent legal advice. Bell Gully was paid $NZ2500 for that purpose, and provided Family First with a legal opinion that the EFA section that defined what an 'electoral advertisement' was, was quite vague. However, it then advised Family First that its pamphlets probably would be regarded as suchby the Electoral Commission and the courts.

The fundamentalist pressure group is now crying poverty, arguing that it doesn't have enough money available to mount a legal challenge. So, why doesn't it simply comply with the EFA and register? I must confess, I found (FF Leader) Bob McCoskrie's excuse singularly unconvincing- if it could fill in the paperwork to get its wretched citizens referendum against children's rights off the ground, then why can't it comply with the law of the land when it comes to electoral finance, donors and campaign expenditure? However, to give them credit, McCoskrie then whined that the Charities Commission might then look askance at its current charitable status, and regard Family First and related Christian Right pressure groups as 'political lobbyists.'

Hmmm. Now there's an idea. Excuse me, I'm off to check out what the Charities Act has to say about such matters, and check out relevant case law on the subject... and possibly, usethe Official Information Act as well.

As for Family First's whingeing about 'free speech,' its Exclusive Brethren counterparts should have thought of that before they tried to subvert our domestic electoral processes during the last general election, which made the Electoral Finance Act a necessity.

Craig Young - 24th August 2008